An Interview with Professor Gomez

Lindsay Lieber sits down with her marketing class instructor, Professor Gomez, while studying abroad at Universidad Pontificia Comillas in Madrid, Spain. Drawing from his experience working with Mondelez, Safilo, and other partnerships, they discuss the difference in business culture between U.S. and Spain, as well as skills that are valuable in the business world today.

 Front of Universidad Pontificia Comillas

The other week I had the pleasure of interviewing my marketing teacher, professor Gomez, about his experiences teaching, in the business world, and the differences between the culture in Spain and the US. Professor Gomez graduated from Universidad Pontificia Comillas studying under the general business E2 track with a focus in marketing and research. He worked at the international food company Mondelez from 1999 until 2017, which houses recognizable snack brands, from Oreo to Nabisco to Ritz,  where he gained extensive experience in the marketing field. He stayed with Mondelez for such a long period, because it was fast growing and there was always something new to do. He held 10 different positions over the 18 years taking on projects in trade marketing, sales strategy, a Hello Joy campaign which required work in sharing market space, and more. He worked a lot with coffee and collaborated with other companies such as Tassimo, Bosch, Corte Ingles, and Carrefour. He greatly enjoyed working with a wide range of people and learned a lot over the nearly 20 years working at the company. After leaving Mondelez he wanted a change in projects and sectors and joined Safilo, an eyewear company in 2017, and left the company in December to teach.

Since, he has jumpstarted his teaching career with an opening at his alma mater, Universidad Pontificia Comillas. He loves teaching because it has given him the opportunity to talk to more people and he really enjoys training, explaining, and making things easier to understand for his students. Engaging his students is fundamental in his teaching method, and he aims to always make the content more interesting. And while he loves teaching, he also loves drawing and illustrating too. Outside of the classroom he takes art classes and mentioned he would really like to find a way to combine illustration with teaching.

Now, with extensive experience at Mondelez, an international company, when asked about differences he’s noticed between business culture in the US versus Spain he said he didn’t notice too many. He mentions that generally, the US has many commonalities with the Mediterranean culture, but he did point out the great enthusiasm many of his US colleagues seemed to have. Professor Gomez elaborates that they are quite good at communicating and motivating as Spanish coworkers tend to be less direct than their US counterparts. There is more nonverbal or unwritten communication and dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty more than in the US. Further, he compliments that American workers tend to be better at building their personal brand and selling themselves, mentioning that he thinks it reflects a higher level of competitive and individualistic tendencies. Meanwhile, Spaniards will tend to emphasize collaboration and the need for a stronger relationship between coworkers. For example, he indicates that business lunches happen frequently, and it is not uncommon for them to last two hours. Professor Gomez acknowledges this can make working in Spain less efficient, and they generally work a 9:30-7:30 day instead of the 9-5 that is typical in America. Things happen later, but he expresses that a healthy emotional link between coworkers is extremely important and supports a collaborative work environment.

When asked about the importance of internships for university students, he answered that most Spanish students start looking their last two years of uni, which is pretty similar to the US. Nonetheless, he admits that there doesn’t seem to be as much anxiety about finding one and that sometimes he wishes his students would be more driven in finding one. Being that the majority of my classes are in English, I also asked him about the importance of learning a second language. He said that it was very common for students to be able to speak more than one language, and that he didn’t start learning English until he was 12 which is considered late (don’t worry, his English is still quite good despite his “late” start). Knowing another language will undoubtedly give you a leg up in the business world he claims, especially as we are becoming more globalized and many large companies are now international.

Finally, for those that are considering working in Spain, Professor Gomez shares his advice. He reiterates that collectivism is very important in the office, and it is good to be open to conversation and making new friends. Reflecting at his time at Safilo, he reminds new hires to have fun because you will feel closer to your coworkers, and a positive environment helps to get things done. Be ready for teamwork, good spirits, and to be a part of the group.

Summer in Spain? Don’t mind if I do!

Summer Global Internship Program Participant, Alex Jackson, talks about her anticipation of working abroad in Madrid, Spain! She also shares some insights to the process of being matched up with companies.

I was just accepted to go to Spain for the Summer Global Internship Program! I am excited to learn about the culture in Spain as well as improve my Spanish speaking skills. That is the main reason why I decided to study in Spain, because I think it is important to know another language. I have been taking Spanish since I was a freshman in high school, but do not get to use it much at school. I am hoping through this experience I will be able to come back speaking more smoothly than I do now!

The job hunt process for the program was fast and easy. The partnering agency was personable and really wanted to make sure I was placed in an internship I felt I would enjoy! The first interview was with the partnering agency getting to know me, going over my resume, testing my Spanish, and figuring out what I wanted in a company. Be honest during the interview, because you are interviewing for what you want to get out of the internship. Also, know your resume, they will ask you questions about it! Because of my previous history with speaking Spanish, I was able to be placed at a company that only spoke Spanish! This was exciting for me because I knew I would be fully immersed in the language and Spanish culture. My preferences for a company were a little difficult because I wanted to work for a small nonprofit organization, because I wanted to see the differences between working at a for profit company and a nonprofit. Although they said it might be a difficult hunt, they were able to find an organization for me! The search for an organization took about three months, I actually forgot I was going to be working in Spain for a little bit! However, the wait did not disappoint!

The partnering agency was able to find two non-profit organizations who were willing to have an intern for the Summer! After weighing my options I decided to go with Fundación Aladina, a nonprofit that supports children with cancer. When I decided on my organization, I took to the social media to find out more about them. They were VERY active on social media and their Instagram was beautiful! I could tell by their interaction with the followers and office pictures they posted that their organization was like a family. I then had a follow-up interview with Ishtar Espejo, who is the director of the organization and fortunately we hit it off! She enjoyed my energy, was informative, excited to work with me, and was very clear of her expectations of the internship. The interview with my boss made me even more excited to go! She expressed that she wanted my internship to be a learning experience for both of us. This reassured me that I was going to have a great experience because the organization wanted me there as much as I wanted to be there!

All while I was waiting to hear back from the partnering agency, all the students going to Spain were taking a class on Spain and what to expect. This was very helpful because the campus coordinator for the partnering agency came to a couple sessions and we were able to ask her so many questions! The most informative class for me, was when students from the previous summer came to speak to us. They were able to give us tips, such as, do not leave your phone on the table when you eat and good places to visit in the city. In the class a lot of students seemed nervous to be traveling so far for so long, however I was so excited! Traveling has always been a passion of mine and being able to travel and gain more experience in my major was a win win!

Singapore Management University: Singapore’s Urban Business School

Megan Reardon introduces Singapore Management University (SMU), the university that she studied at for a semester on the Student Exchange Program. Hear about the classes she took, the faculty, the facilities, and all other things about SMU!

Attending Singapore Management University (SMU) was instrumental in shaping my experiences while abroad. SMU is an urban, multi-cultural learning hub designed to integrate the bustle of business with the drive for learning in Singapore. Unlike the two other universities in Singapore, SMU is incredibly urban. It is within walking distance of the city center, and offers the most activities compared to the other two school – Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and National University of Singapore (NUS). SMU has five different schools (similar to how OSU has Fisher, the College of Arts and Sciences, etc.), all of which offer classes you can take as an exchange student. Compared to Ohio State, SMU was very small. Only about 8,000 students attend SMU, compared to OSU’s nearly 60,000. Being in the middle of the city, it didn’t feel that small, but it was still a stark contrast to OSU. The typical class size at SMU was 30-40 students. This includes the “intro” courses, which at OSU consist of hundreds of students in one lecture.

Courses at SMU are designed as modules, with one module consisting of roughly 3 OSU credit hours. While abroad, I took four courses: International Finance, Sociology of Terrorism, Introduction to Marketing, and Cultural Policy and Practice. My personal favorite was Sociology of Terrorism because it offered a unique perspective on terrorism versus the views I was used to seeing in the U.S. International Finance was incredibly difficult as an exchange student whose classes aren’t Pass/Fail. Though I passed this course, I chose to retake it at OSU to get a higher grade. Introduction to Marketing was similar to what I would expect an OSU class to be like. Cultural Policy and Practice was outside of my comfort zone as it was an intense dive into arts policy, but taught me the most about Singapore’s culture. Like at OSU, many of the professors had PhD’s or had strong institutional knowledge of their specialization. For example, my International Finance professors had both PhD’s and entrepreneurs who worked across international borders.

Classes at SMU had different formats than at Ohio State. I had one class on Tuesday, one on Wednesday, and two classes on Thursday. Each class was 3.5 hours with a 15-minute break in the middle of class. Classes rarely, if ever, were let out early. If I wasn’t traveling on Monday or Friday, I would spend those days catching up on homework or studying for exams in the library. Typically, a course was structured so that a group project was the main focus of the class. There was also a final for each course I was in, but placed at the same time as the group project was due, so prior planning was essential. I tried to allocate all of the time on my weekends to exploring Singapore or other countries in Southeast Asia.

If you look closely, you can see me!
The newly renovated quad at SMU

Global Option in Business – Reflection

As she gets close in completing her Global Option in Business program, Megan Reardon reflects on how the program helped her learn, develop skills, and gain experience for her to be ready for a global future.

Before I came to Fisher, I knew I wanted to study abroad. Having studied Mandarin in high school, I wanted to be able to apply my language skills in a real-world setting. When I was abroad, it opened my eyes to the world of global business and that I could be a player in the international business scene. At this point, I did not find it worthwhile to pick up an International Business degree. However, I wanted a way to differentiate myself among my peers as a global citizen. Thus, I learned more about the Global Option program and decided that I wanted to pursue it.

The global option consists of several sections in order to earn the certificate. For my sections, I took classes, mentored students, and went abroad. Going abroad was definitely the most impactful section that I completed, however, it only gave me insight to business in Asia. Through the other sections, I was able to learn more about business in other parts of the world, including South America and Europe.

Since coming back from Singapore and having had a full semester to reflect on how my experience impacted my personal, school, and professional life, I have started to notice visible changes in how I act. I am now more confident in speaking up in classes. I no longer get nervous that my answers will be wrong or I am not knowledgeable enough about a topic to answer a question. My classes at Singapore Management University (SMU) were all discussion based. Because of the language barrier, I often had to make sure that I was well-prepared for classes and spoke very clearly about what I was trying to convey. This has translated back to my studies at Ohio State in that I come to classes ready and willing to make my opinions known.

I also think that I am much more understanding in group projects. Before I went to Singapore, I would completely commandeer the leadership position in my group projects. I would delegate and assign tasks to people, even if I didn’t have the best knowledge of the topic. After I went to Singapore, I am much more willing to take a step back and first look at what people are good at or interested in and discuss roles based on that. I no longer take a lead position in every project I work on.

Also as part of the global option, I took International Finance and International Marketing. I definitely found International Marketing more interesting because it focused much more on culture abroad compared to International Finance which focused on hedging and derivatives. For International Marketing, our final grade was a semester long consulting project designed to bring a U.S.-based firm to four different international markets – France, Hong Kong, Canada, and Brazil. We did in depth cultural, economic, and political analyses on these topics that resulted in recommendations for how to introduce this new firm to international markets. Overall, I really liked this project because it gave a good sense of business operations in other countries without having to go to those countries.

I would recommend the Global Option in Business program to any student at Fisher. As the world is becoming more globalized, it is inevitable that current students will have to work with foreign entities at some point in our careers. The Global Option in Business is a quick way for students to enter the workforce more prepared for inevitable global careers.

Kakehashi Project 6: What’s a Fork?

The big day has come to present in front of the Foreign Ministry of Japan! The students suite up and show OSU style business presentation. After, they head out to Tokyo to see the city, as one student sums it “This is the coolest city ever, it has everything! Once we get back to Columbus, we’re going to miss Tokyo so much.”

On the morning of day five, we woke up and got dressed in our best clothes, ready to represent Ohio State University in the ending meeting with Japan International Cooperation Center (JICE) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). Evan sat down on the bus wearing a half-windsor knot on his necktie, and was quickly verbally accosted by the other males on the trip as well as Dr. Prud’homme. One of his peers tied Evan’s necktie with a full-windsor knot, and then we were ready to go. Our bus took us to the Oita airport and we had a short flight back into Tokyo. This was our fourth flight of the trip, so the excitement and nerves that typically come with flying had completely left us. Jacob and Cindy were both fixated on their phones throughout the entire flight, looking at the presentation making sure it would be perfect. As soon as we landed back in Tokyo, we went to lunch at an ‘American’ restaurant downtown. The meal was baked fish, potatoes, vegetables, rice, and some sort of corn chowder. We were all stunned to find silverware on our tables instead of chopsticks; it seemed sacrilegious to use forks and knives on a culturally immersive trip to Japan, and we actually started to enjoy using chopsticks by this point.

Austin showing off his chopstick skills back in Oita

We headed to the JICE reporting session and rejoined with the groups from University of Kentucky, Rutgers, and UNC – Chapel Hill. Our group presented third after Rutgers and UNC. These first two presentations were very well done and offered a lot of insight into what their takeaways were. Instead of going to Oita, Rutgers and UNC traveled to Tochigi, a prefecture very near to Tokyo, so it was interesting to hear how their experience differed from ours. For instance, they met with the Tochigi prefectural government for a lecture on local industry and trade, and they made a visit to a local farm for strawberry picking. The UNC group put together a short video of small clips from their experience, which had a very thoughtful and professional feel to it.

Conversely, the OSU presentation focused on sincerity, authenticity, and gratitude towards JICE for giving us the opportunity to travel to Japan and have such a wonderful experience. They stressed how we came into the trip with very limited knowledge on Japan, and how much we had learned about the Japanese economy (including the jobs Japan were creating in the United States), the cleanliness of Japan, the regional diversity we saw through our time in Tokyo and Oita, Japanese hospitality, and the concept of ichi-go ichi-e (“Once in a lifetime”, taught to us by the tea master in Oita). They also outlined our action plan to continue learning the Japanese language, maintain communication with the people we met on our trip, post content about our trip on social media and the Fisher website (e.g. this blog), presenting to the investment clubs on campus about Japanese markets, and share our experiences with our friends and families. They closed with quotes from two members of our group that we thought had really taken in the experience and made the most of the trip. First, they talked about how Dennis had been learning the language in school, and how rewarding it was for him to be able to come to Japan and get to apply his knowledge of the language. Second, they outlined Lily’s reflection on how she was able to make a significant amount of authentic connections in Japan without sharing a common language. The larger OSU group, Lorraine, Dr. Prud’homme, and Miho were all extremely proud of how they represented us, Fisher, and Ohio State University.

Presentation Team representing OSU in front of the three other school as well as JICE. From left to right: Evan, Casey, Makayla, Cindy, Jacob, Judson

After Kentucky gave their presentation, two representatives from JICE spoke expressing their thanks for our participation in the Kakehashi Project and hope that this would encourage and strengthen the ties between Japan and the United States. Then, one representative from each school went to the front of the room to receive a certificate. We had chosen Austin to represent us and receive the certificate; he was all smiles and gave a very deep bow to the JICE representatives.

After the session concluded, we went to Odaiba, a very large mall just outside of downtown Tokyo. We were given a significant amount of free time to shop and explore. Most of the stores were western brand stores, such as Adidas and Nike. We found the equivalent of a dollar store (which Kevin aptly called “the Yen store”) called Daiso. A good amount of the products they carried had some element representative of the culture of Japan, so it made for a great place to buy souvenirs and gifts inexpensively. Each item cost ¥108 (roughly $1), so we appreciated it as college students with little disposable income. In addition to a lot of snacks, we were able to find carp-streamers (called koinobori), hand fans, and training chopsticks for children (which we thought would be funny to buy and give to our roommates back in Columbus). Outside, there were several great spots to take pictures of downtown Tokyo, which we all took advantage of.

Tokyo skyline, taken from Odaiba
Ethan, Pat, Alex, and Dennis giving the O-H-I-O

For dinner, we were told to meet outside of a restaurant in the mall called “The Oven” which we found out was an American-style buffet. We joked that the previous night we went to the Japanese Golden Corral, and now we were at the actual Golden Corral. It was more or less what we had expected, offering fried chicken, tacos, macaroni and cheese, meatballs, and a large chocolate fountain.

After dinner as we started to walk to meet the bus, we noticed that Jacob was carrying a bag that had been torn, so Christine D kindly offered him a plastic bag to use. Jacob explained that he had bought a shirt from the mall and then went outside to take pictures of Tokyo. While outside, he went to show some friends from the group his new shirt, and he accidentally dropped it into a muddy spot on the ground, so he took the shirt back inside and tried his best to wash the mud out in the bathroom of the mall. Thus, the shirt was wet, which made the bag disintegrate in the corners. After he was finished explaining what happened, someone asked if it was ruining his usual happy mood. His answer was so positive that it made us all take a minute to reflect: “I mean, we’re in Tokyo! This is the coolest city ever, it has everything! Evan and I are going to Chicago next weekend, and it won’t have half of the cool stuff Tokyo has. Once we get back to Columbus, we’re going to miss Tokyo so much.” His phenomenal attitude and focus on the positive really made an impression on us; some of the people on this trip were excellent picks to go on the Kakehashi Project because of how much it meant to them and how much they appreciated it. The students on the trip like Jacob who made the most of this trip through their openness to the experience and great attitudes are the heart of Fisher and make us all proud to attend Ohio State University. We went back to the hotel ready to take on Tokyo for sightseeing the next day.

Read the next post! Kakehashi Project 7:  Big Day Out in Tokyo

Or read from the start! Kakehashi Project 1: Pre-departure and Travel Day

Kakehashi Project 5: Ittekimasu or Sayonara?

On the forth day on the Kakehashi Project, the group is confronted with some difficult goodbyes with their host families as they get ready to depart from Oita, Japan. They also finished and practiced their final preparation on the action plan presentation they will give to the Foreign Ministry of the Japan.

On day four, all of the students and home stay families regrouped at the Saiki City Hall. We went up to a large conference room inside and sat down for a talk from the mayor. Most of the host families sat in the back of the room, but Shouko (Joe’s home stay mother – read his blog post to hear more about it!) sat up towards the front next to Miho, the staff from Japan International Cooperation Center (JICE),  who was translating; after the mayor was done speaking, they handed the microphone to Shouko who talked about how much she, Mitsuo, and Soto looked forward to us visiting, and how much they enjoyed hosting us. After Shouko was done speaking, we cleared the chairs from the room to do our group presentations; Cindy led the Ohio State group in singing Carmen Ohio, and the Kentucky group had a few people swing dance and a 4th-year PhD student play a guitar riff.

Shouko speaking to the group at city hall

After the presentations, we left city hall for lunch. Each group sat with their host family, which was nice because they were able to guide us through what each food item was and how to eat it.

Pat, Alex, Jacob, and Lewis with their homestay mother
Christine, Lily, and Amber with their homestay parents

After we were done, we went outside to say our final goodbyes. Even though we were going to be back with Miho, we didn’t want to leave our host families. There are several accounts of what happened next, but Kevin would say that it was extremely dusty outside of the restaurant and he was thus ‘sweating profusely’ from his eyes. We got back on the bus and waved goodbye.

Kevin fighting through an extreme case of eyeball sweating while waving goodbye to Shouko

During our orientation sessions with Kozue, the program coordinator,  we learned two phrases for departing: sayonara, essentially meaning ‘goodbye’ with the connotation that you will not be returning, and ittekimasu, which directly translates as ‘I will go and I will come back.’ This seemed too nuanced for us to try to remember a month before the trip, but it became extremely important as we started having to say our goodbyes. Leaving our homestay families was our first go-around with saying goodbye to some of the people we bonded with during the trip, and it was much harder than we had expected; these people had invited us into their homes and treated us like family. They showed us a true kindness that we couldn’t repay, and we really appreciated it, which really catalyzed the bonds developed during the homestays. In the back of our heads, we knew that we were getting into the back-half of the trip, and in a few short days, we would have to say goodbye to Miho and the country of Japan. Miho kept reminding us not to say ‘goodbye’ to anyone, but ‘see you later.’

We went back to the building where the  Japanese External Trade Organization (JETRO) representative spoke to us to work on our dissemination plans; prior to the trip, we had been split into ‘social media team,’ ‘video team,’ ‘presentation team,’ and ‘blog team’. Each group had been working on different dissemination methods throughout the trip; social media team had been posting on the Fisher OGB Instagram account, video team had been taking short videos throughout the trip and is planning to edit them into a larger string of videos, blog team had been writing what happened on the trip to be posted in blog form after the trip, and presentation team had to give a presentation in the closing meeting with Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). This time gave us an opportunity to regroup and evaluate how we were doing. After quick discussions, the social media team, video team, and blog team took some time to go outside and enjoy the sunny day, as we had spent most of our time either inside buildings or on the bus. Meanwhile, Cindy whipped the presentation team into shape and got the ball rolling on a rough draft of the PowerPoint they would be showing the next day.

Dr. Prud’homme taking a selfie at the dissemination planning session

We left for our hotel to get changed, and then went out to dinner at Stamina Taro, which could best be described as the Japanese equivalent of Golden Corral. Another ‘cook your own meal’ restaurant, raw meat and uncooked vegetables were set up in a buffet, and you cooked your food at a grill at your table. It was extremely tough to correctly time out how long each item should cook for, so most of the meat ended up very overcooked. There was also sushi and desserts available, so after we tried and failed to enjoy the meat and vegetables, we deferred to the shrimp sushi and ice cream (separately but interestingly, we have been suspecting that Miho only likes dessert. It has become a habit for us to ask Miho if she will eat when we go into a restaurant, to which she normally responds “ehhhh, I’m not really hungry, but maybe there’ll be ice cream”). Most of us thought this was most ‘average’ meal of the trip, but Kelly said it was the most enjoyable.

We returned to the hotel so that the presentation team could continue working, while the rest of the group started to decompress in their rooms. About an hour later, we all met in the lobby of the hotel so that the presentation team could go through a trial run. Casey wasn’t feeling well, but she was very determined to give a great presentation. Afterwards, a few people gave some very fiery feedback comments to the presenters, effectively ending the meeting and the night.

Read the next post! Kakehashi Project 6: What’s a Fork?

Or read from the start! Kakehashi Project 1: Pre-departure and Travel Day

The Substation

One of the classes Megan Reardon took at Singapore Management University (SMU) was “Arts and Culture Management”. She worked on a group project to research about The Substation, a arts hubs created under government policy, and through this leaned the difference in U.S. vs Singaporian business practices.

Singapore’s arts scene is not as vibrant as other countries. Since policy has always been focused on economic development, arts policy has often been deemed as a sort of forced social project. This is not a uniquely Singaporean problem – Hong Kong and Shanghai also face similar obstacles. One of the policies implemented was the Arts Housing Scheme, which refurbished vacant government buildings into arts hubs. The Substation was born out of the Arts Housing Scheme and is Singapore’s first independent contemporary arts center. Established in 1990 when the arts in Singapore were severely lagging, as a collaborative and pioneering experimental arts center. For one of my classes, Arts and Culture Management, my project team was assigned to analyze The Substation’s role in the emerging Singapore arts scene. Once the centerpiece of a bustling neighborhood, The Substation is now surrounded by new, upscale restaurants and shopping centers, and unable to financially compete with the surrounding businesses.

Image from Google Images

Part of our assignment was interviewing various people associated with the development of The Substation in its current form. Though no longer thriving, the mission is clear – to foster creativity and innovation in the Singapore community by providing programming, practice spaces, and courses to artists. For part of our project, we had to interview people closely connected with The Substation, whether it be previous artistic directors, the woman who gave The Substation its original building, or various artists who have used their facilities. These interviews gave me the opportunity to discover more about how business is done in Singapore.

The most interesting observation in comparing Singaporean business to how business is done in the U.S. is the level of formality. Though I had previously believed lunch meetings to be very casual, the lunch meeting with several of our interviewees was formal. There was no small talk, no exchange of pleasantries, but the ever looming feeling that we were there for business only.

Another difference in business practices was that our professor joined us on meetings. At first, I found this odd. It was as if our professor did not trust us enough to be able to conduct the meetings on our own. However, as we continued interviews, I eventually learned that my professor attended these meetings as a vessel to continue her own learning. She was just as curious about the answers to our questions as we were. The emphasis on continued learning is very strong in Singapore. Because it is such an economically advanced society, people are constantly trying to stay on the cusp of what is new and exciting. It’s why Singapore continues to thrive during these times.

Our Final Presentation Timeline

Kakehashi Project 1: Pre-departure and Travel Day

Read about the start of the Kakehashi Project! How the program started, what the preparation was like, and how the group embarked on their journey to Japan.

Konnichiwa (“Hello” in Japanese) from the bloggers on the Kakehashi Project in Japan! We’re so excited to be able to recount our journey across Japan on the Fisher platform. This will be our introductory blog post, offering some background information on the trip and a hint at what is to come.

In the fall of 2017, the Office of Global Business (OGB) sent out an email to Fisher students inviting them to apply for the Kakehashi project. There wasn’t a lot of details on what it entailed, but the teaser looked very interesting, and the bottom line was that the government of Japan would be sponsoring a trip for a group of students to visit Japan over spring break to learn about the culture, economy, and history of Japan. After a thorough application and interview process,the participants were selected; 23 students and two Resident Directors (Dr. Andrea Prud’homme and Lorraine Pennyman) would be traveling. The OGB program coordinator, Kozue Isozaki, presented two orientation sessions to the group, preparing us on the societal norms of Japan and general lessons for travel; the program even arranged a lunch for us at Akai Hana in Columbus to try out Japanese cuisine and practice our chopstick skills. Since the group is a mixture of sophomores, juniors, and seniors, these orientation sessions were a good way for us to get to know each other. In terms of travel logistics, Kozue recommended that we not check bags for the flight, and instead use smaller bags as carry-ons, since we would be moving with our luggage for a good deal of the trip. Thus, we had a lot of fun practicing packing our suits and dress shirts without wrinkling them.

On the day of our departure, we met at the Columbus airport at 5:45 a.m. U.S. eastern time for a connecting flight to Dallas. After a short layover in Dallas, we boarded our thirteen-hour flight to Tokyo.

In the Dallas airport getting ready for the big flight to Tokyo

The plane was either a 777 or 787, but the takeaway is that we were packed into the plane with an ample supply of movies to watch during the flight. Some of the blog team members were seated together on the flight, which helped pass the time. We arrived in Tokyo at about 5:00 p.m. Japanese time, which is 4:00 a.m. U.S. eastern. After going through customs, we were met by a representative from the Japan International Cooperation Center (JICE) named Miho, who took us to our bus. JICE was the organization that prepared for the in-country logistics of the program. The transition over into the new culture hit us pretty quickly; as we got off the plane and went further through the airport, the signs and conversations around us started to shift from English to Japanese, and once we cleared customs, we were completely thrown into a new land with no knowledge of the language beyond konnichiwa.

Checking out the airport after getting past customs – the only English words are ‘No Entry’

The ride to our hotel took about 90 minutes, and we arrived at about 8:00 pm Japanese time, so we had effectively been awake for roughly 26 hours by this point. Upon arrival, JICE representatives gave us detailed itineraries for the trip as well as dinner, a bento box that heated up after a string was pulled out of the side.

Despite our excitation about arriving in Japan, we were all very worn out, so we went to bed immediately, thus ending our long day of travel.

Read the next post! Kakehashi Project 2: The Undergrads and The PhDs

The Difference in University Culture in Italy

Although questioning if he wanted to leave his comfort zone in the U.S., Chandler Ross took the leap to go abroad for a semester. Now, one month at Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi on the Student Exchange Program, he shares what it was like starting in a new country and the differences he sees in university culture in Milan,Italy.

So, it’s officially been one month since I started school here at Bocconi University in Milan, Italy. Before departing on this trip, I’m going to be honest and say that I was very worried and had doubts how this whole experience was going to be. There was comfort in being a third year at OSU, with all my friends and loved ones around me. Why leave that comfort behind for something very unknown? I thought about this for a long time, but I realized that’s exactly why I decided to leave for a semester abroad. The unknown of what this journey would bring, who I would meet, or the new culture I would get to see. I’ve always been adventurous, but have my moments of just playing it safe and going the easy route. Overall, I put aside all of that and went into this journey with an open mind.

When I got to Italy, after a two full days of traveling and some very serious jet lag, it of course felt surreal and yet very scary. I was fully on my own, away from my friends and family in a brand new country. The first week was a mix of being a little homesick, but excitement of exploring a new city with new friends. Milan is a very interesting city. It’s a very metropolitan city filled with TONS of shopping, but turn a corner and you can get transported to an old Italian town, with small streets and beautiful buildings. Some of my favorite parts in town would be Navigli, which has some great apertivo spots, with a very young crowd in the area. Another thing I discovered about Milan is that it’s not a huge touristy town. Before I came here, I thought it would have been tourist after tourist in the city, but Milan’s majority of people here are just people who live here. It makes this city feel more authentic, as you’re meeting real Italians living and working here.

When school started at Bocconi, I honestly had no idea how it was going to be. After one month, it’s very interesting to see the comparisons between a school like Bocconi and OSU. First, Bocconi has this policy called “non-attending student” for classes. This simply means you can tell your professor that you will not be coming to class and that you will just take the final for that class based on the professor’s textbook. That was such a foreign concept due to the fact that you can be upfront about your schedule and decide to still be in the class. I didn’t really like this because I didn’t want only ONE exam to decide whether or not I passed the class. However, another difference is that most classes I’m taking have no midterm. Your grade is simply determined by a final and a group project.

Bocconi’s culture is of course VERY different from OSU. Smoke breaks are very popular here and you can guarantee to see a good amount of Bocconi students outside the buildings chatting and having a cigarette. This is uncommon for OSU, as the campus promotes students to not smoke and be tobacco-free. I had an idea that this was maybe common, I just didn’t understand it was this common where a good portion of the students partake in it. The school itself is really only comprised of a few buildings. My classes are only in 2 buildings, which is of course different from OSU, due to the fact that we have such a huge campus. Bocconi is on the south side of Milan located within the city, so it’s very much a city school.

A huge difference between Bocconi and OSU has to be the clothing between the students. At OSU, a typical student might wear sweatpants or leggings to class and this is just the norm. At Bocconi, you don’t really see anyone wearing sweatpants or leggings. School could be compared to a fashion show with people dressing to impress. Girls in long, luxurious coats and guys in nice shoes is what you see here on campus. It’s an interesting difference because one day I wore sweatpants to class and did get some interesting looks from the students.

Expanding upon Milan, I’ve been fortunate enough to get to travel to new cities. I’ve been able to see Venice, Switzerland and Germany. Each brought their different aspects about what makes them so great. Venice had this high energy spirit for their Carnival celebration. Switzerland had this mountain charm, with a bit of a price tag as it is an expensive country. Germany had this rich history of its town with some great food.

Knowing what I know now, if I had to say anything to myself before I came on this trip, I would say that just truly everything does work out. No matter what the reservations you have or how scary it might be, everything really does work out in the end. I’m just getting started in this journey, but so far it’s been an incredible experience and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

What Am I Doing Here?

After a question in class “Why are you here?”, Maggie Hobson shares her thoughts and goals on why she is abroad studying at Curtin University in Perth, Australia on the Student Exchange Program, on her very first extensive experience outside of the U.S.

Me with a Kangaroo

Reading the title of this post might be a bit frightening at first.  It may seem like I am questioning my decision to travel alone to a foreign country for five months.  However, I have been “abroad” for exactly three weeks and at my host university for exactly 2 weeks and not once have I questioned my decision of coming here.  However, today was the second day of classes and my first time sitting in on my “Human Structure and Function” course, that I took as last resort to cover my natural science GE credit I still need at OSU.  I was thinking that this class would be another typical Earth Science or Chocolate Science course that I could check off in order to stay on track to graduate next spring.  I was far from wrong.  As a class, we went around the room announcing our majors.  “Nursing.” “Health Science.” “Physical Therapy.”  These were all the responses of each student.  I started to build a nervous sweat as the teacher pointed to me and I announced, “Accounting.”  The teacher continued to point to each of the students to hear their responses.  However, at the very end, she pointed back to me and asked “I just need to point out what we’re all thinking, why are you here?”

That got me thinking.  Why am I here?  I have lived in Columbus, Ohio my entire life, 21 years, and I will be living in Australia for five months.  That’s about 2% of my life that I am able to spend meeting all new people, experiencing a whole new culture, traveling and exploring a multitude of places and taking classes that I would never have stumbled upon back home.  I am here to learn and grow as an individual.  Ultimately, I want to come back with a new perspective on life and other cultures, in hopes that I can influence and relate to others in a more positive way.  So far in my time here, I have met people from, and not limited to, the Netherlands, South Africa, Sweden, Canada, Asia, New Zealand and all around the US.  It has been fascinating not only learning about the culture in which I am living but the cultures of these many other exchange students going through similar experiences to mine.

Throughout these past two weeks, I have already gained so much knowledge about myself and other cultures and classes only started yesterday.  For instance, I have learned that it is NEVER too late to learn.  Each of my classes here has someone who is about the age of my parents.  These people differ from the adults in my classes at OSU because they engage with everyone just as if they were our age.  They are enthralled by class discussions and they will join classmates in getting a bite to eat after class.  Additionally, some of my fellow exchange students are five or six years older than me.  It is so much more common in other cultures to take a gap year, or two or three and then return to school when you know what you want out of your education and you are able to fully value what you are learning.  Additionally, I have learned that I am more independent than I once thought.  Going into this time abroad, I truly believed I would regret my decision, be lost and wondering, not make friends and yearn for my friends and family back home.  Fortunately enough, none of this has come true.  I started meeting people on the first plane ride over, when I talked to the two people sitting next to me for the entirety of the four hour flight.  You are never fully alone when traveling  because there are always people to meet and learn from and I have taken advantage of the opportunity to do so.  Lastly, I am eager to see what I learn in these non-accounting classes.  It is awesome to have the opportunity to take elective classes without having the stress of focusing more heavily on the classes for my major.  This way, I am able to really experience each class I take here and gain knowledge on a whole new subject outside of my major.

It has been quite the adventure so far and I am looking forward to the rest of my time here!  Not only am I looking forward to my bigger trips like the ones to Ningaloo Reef, Cairns and Bali but I am looking forward to living my day to day life as a student: playing in my touch rugby league, engaging in my dorms free food nights and enjoying the gorgeous weather while walking through campus.  I’ll check back in with more of my experiences later on but for now, here are a few of my favorite pictures I have taken so far from traveling around Perth, Western Australia!

Looking at the sunset over the city of Perth
Fremantle, an area about 40 minutes from Curtin known for its history and shops
A quokka which is an animal that is part of the kangaroo family but only found on Rottnest Island!